Athithi Devo Bhava (A Guest is God)

You might or might not know but Indian people consider a huge honor to have guests as it is said that God comes in their house in the form of guests (Athithi Devo Bhava).

Well, that is the way I have been welcome everywhere in India, with garlands of flowers sometimes in hotels, but mainly in Jaipur where I have friends, and the family which has become my own.

As I said, I have received flowers when arriving the first time at my teacher (and friend)’s house after not meeting for 5 years. That was a great surprise and so nice from her !

During my experience as a Volunteer in Jaipur, I made friends, some guys working for the Non-Governmental Organization, and one of them has become a closer friend. Everything started during a Hindu Festival called Raksha Bandhan. During this festival, girls tie a Rakhi (bracelet) to their brother(s) or a boy who they consider their brother and the brother, along with a gift to his sister, will offer her his longlife protection.

Example of a Rakhi

 

I had done a small celebration with the slum children, drawing Rakhis on a piece of paper that they had to cut them and tie around their wrists. And drawing them, I was thinking, if I was Hindu, who would I tie a Rakhi to? Well, probably that guy from the NGO I was under his protection anyway as per his position of staff member of the NGO…

One day we were talking about this festival and he asked if I had tied a Rakhi and who was the lucky person…so I told him I had not tied any, as I didn’t know if, as a non-hindu I could, but if I could, I would have tied the Rakhi on his wrist. He got emotional about it. From that day, we started to call each other “brother” (bhai, in Hindi) and “sister” (behen).

Visiting India now, 5 years later, in order to commemorate how our friendship had started, I have brought him 2 “Irish style” Rakhis one all green with a Shamrock, and one with the colours of the Irish flag that happen to be the same than the Indian ones (green white and orange).

Since then, we had been writing emails to each other several times a week for 5 years, asking all the questions we had about each other’s culture, everyday’s worries, and the good moments of each other’s life. He also helped with my Hindi online course, to clarify on the questions/doubts I had. I remember his dream was to learn how to swim, and one day I got an email saying he had had his first lesson. Knowing the background of the story, I was so entousiastic and happy for him! He was going every day before work, even though the swimming pool was not close to his workplace, or home, and it meant getting up earlier!

I had taught him a few words of french and spanish which he still remembers today! When he came to pick me up at my Indian Family’s house to bring me to his place, as he wanted me to meet his family and his daughter’s birthday was the perfect occasion, he came with his niece. She greeted me saying “Bonjour” (Hello, in french) – he had taught her how to say something in french for me ! So sweet ! Small things but very heartwarming.

Once at his family home, everyone was very welcoming , I was touched when his father told me “you’re most welcome” and happy to see his wife Dimple again, that I had met last time, who’s a lovely girl, and even she knows less english that he does, we manage to communicate and have a good laugh. Their daughter, Vanshika, is a little princess full of energy! To thank them for that lovely evening, I have taken a lot of pictures, each one of them with the birthday girl, have printed them as soon as I was back to Europe and posted them.

The next day was a sunday, and my friend Amit was off work and wanted to take me around Jaipur, he let me choose the place and we drove to Jal Mahal (Water Palace, in Hindi), the name speaks by itself: it is a palace in the middle of the water, with the mountains behind. A relaxing landscape a bit outside the crowded Pink City. We also went to Krishna temple just next to it, which is also beautiful with its green gardens. At night we went to the restaurant, in C-Scheme area, and I invited them to return their invitation for dinner the previous day.

At my family’s house my little Indian brother was constantly serving water, sweet drinks and biscuits when I arrived while I was chatting with my dear Papaji. It is amazing how time was flowing once we started talking! First of all I was taking time to realize he was in front of me again…I could see clouds around his face sometimes as if it was a dream…and I was going to wake up soon…but I never woke up! Every day Papaji was asking me to stay for dinner but sometimes I had other plans, but was dying to accept his invitation.

But when I did accept it, we had a great time together. One day he switched on his computer, and asked me about how a few things worked, as I was the one who had, 5 years ago created an email address for him and taught him how to send and receive emails, and also asked me to show him pictures of my daily life back in Europe.

One other day, my little brother (the most lovely and well educated boy in the whole world! Not lying!) asked me what I had learnt in Hindi and I told him what letters I had studied in the Devnagari alphabet, and that I had learnt how to write my name, so he ran to get his home copy book for me to write it. We then took a few examples in my book and he showed me how to “draw” them, and asked me to copy the word in front of him! A great moment all together!

The food cooked by my Indian mummy is lovely but because it was the food I used to have every day 5 years ago, it tastes even better! And just sitting at that table again was a great feeling!

Then going back to my accomodation was on my Papaji’s son’s (Sudeep) motorbike in the amazing city that Jaipur is, a sensation of freedom, you have no idea!

Another day the guesthouse family, Girija and Padmesh, and their son Khush, who had relatives visiting from Delhi, Meenaxi and Subodh, wanted to take me to the Sound & Light show at Amber Fort. They planned to go on a certain day but I had other plans so they have changed theirs so that I can go with them, so nice! It was a wonderful story (about how Jaipur was formed) and a gift for the eyes! We bought dinner in town on the way back and came to eat at home. Great night also ! They had some beers, and when I am in India I refuse to drink alcohol, as a girl traveling on her own should be careful at all time, but because we were at home and I was safe, I had one with them.

During the week I could also visit the new premises of the NGO, which basically are across the road from the old one, and my friend Amit introduced me to the whole team, one by one, they all seem to be very nice and said I was welcome back to Jaipur!

Unfortunately my holidays came to an end….and it was time to say goodbye (Alvida)…Oh Gosh…I don’t like that at all!

We went for a coffee with my friend to say goodbye, but the next day he called my Hindi/Indian cuisine teacher to ask if he could come and say goodbye to me again, this time with a present for me. The said present was earphones and a microphone – there is a reason behind that: he always wanted to talk on skype, but I had always lost mine somewhere so now no more excuses for me ! 🙂 I also got a present from my teacher, and two from my family, and one from the guesthouse’s family. They are all so lovely…How could I possibly wish to leave that place?

I hope reading this blog, you have felt like discovering that breathtaking country and its people: there is so much to learn, so much to see, so much to smell, so much to taste, so much to discover, so many people to meet…I wish I had a thousands lives to do all that!

All I have to say is:

 Jai Hind! (Long life to India)

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